How Mobile Survey Applications are CHANGING Research Landscape!!

Veronique DoggenThroughout the years many survey methods have been used and each and every one of them has their own benefits. But unfortunately they also share one major disadvantage: people don’t have much freedom to decide when they want to answer poll questions and this has given filling out surveys a somewhat boring and dreadful reputation. Most respondents are not exactly enthusiastic when someone unexpectedly rings the doorbell or calls them on the phone to ‘answer a few quick questions.’ Similarly, when people receive a questionnaire through traditional mail, they are likely to think it’s too much trouble to send it back once they filled it out.Online surveys are definitely a major improvement, as respondents can decide when they feel like answering a poll. But they still have to be in front of a computer and have access to Internet to answer the questions.

This last disadvantage can be easily avoided by launching polls through a mobile survey application.

Over the past few years, the number of smart device users (especially iOS) has increased rapidly, turning them into the perfect survey panel. After the smart device owners download the mobile survey app, they can answer any poll that’s been made available to them.

As most smart devices have their own Internet connection, it is no longer necessary for people to be in front of a computer with Internet access or to be close to a wireless hotspot. By using their smart devices, respondents can answer polls while waiting to board a plane, while they’re on the bus, subway or train to and from work and so on and so forth.

The fact that they can fill out surveys when they have time to kill makes it much more appealing for respondents to co-operate.

Instead of having to take the time to fill out a survey, answering the questions now becomes a fun way to pass the time that would otherwise be spent waiting and maybe doing nothing.

Using the same app, market researchers can also create polls on their mobile device while they have some free time on their hands.

They can ask users from all around the world to answer their questions, or they can focus on one or more countries. With the right settings, they can also select their respondents based on gender, income, age or profession.

Once the target group has been established, market researchers can add different types of questions (open text, single or multiple answer selection, scales…) as well as dependencies and then submit the poll. Once a poll has been closed, the results should be sent to the person who created it in an easy-to-analyze format, such as an Excel file.

This way, the market researchers can make their own analyses by filtering by region, country, gender, age, income, etc.

Aside from the fact that it is an easy way to get opinions from people all over the world, it’s also the fastest way to get results. Through our mobile survey application NPolls, a worldwide poll usually closes within 24 hours of being launched to 6,000 respondents.

This high success rate is due to the fact that it is possible to send out push notifications to the people who downloaded the app, every time a new poll has been launched. An additional benefit of mobile surveys is that people who answered the poll are able to see the general results afterwards.

This creates a sense of community among the panel, as they can compare their own results to those of the other users.

One thing, however, that market researchers who are using mobile survey applications must be careful about is the selection of an application. In order for the panel to answer to the polls, the user interface has to be self-explanatory and easy-to-use.

The application has to be user friendly for the market researchers themselves as well. Creating a poll should be quick and easy, not complicated and frustrating because the platform is not clear. Furthermore, the results should also be delivered to the market researcher in a format that is compatible with a statistical analysis program, such as SPSS.

Another important feature that should be available is the possibility of creating a personalized private polling system by licensing the application’s platform. This can be important for companies or political parties, for instance, who want to connect with their customers or voters but who do not want to launch standard polls to specific countries or regions.

The image below is an example of what a mobile survey application can look like. In April of this year we launched a poll about the upcoming Euro 2012 soccer tournament in Poland and Ukraine and 5,000 people from all across the world weighed in on the matter.

On the left you can see what a poll looks like while respondents are answering it, and on the right you can see what it looks like when they finished answering it.


After they answered the poll, respondents get to see the results of that same poll in real time. They do not have to wait until the poll has closed, but they can check how the results progress over time.

This method of survey research is becoming increasingly popular and more and more market researchers are starting to see the numerous benefits.

Creating a poll takes about 30 minutes and you can reach thousands of people from across the world within 24 hours after launching it.

The fact that respondents can answer on their mobile device when they have time to kill makes it enjoyable rather than burdensome and being able to see the results of the poll they just answered makes it more interesting for the respondents.

As more and more people start buying smart devices, mobile survey applications are very likely to become the survey method that is used most often in the (near) future.

Veronique DoggenOur mobile survey application NPolls was launched in January 2011 and since then we’ve launched over 900 polls. For more information, please visit our Website. You can also become a fan of NPolls on Facebook or follow us on Twitter. We look forward to hearing from you!


  1. Veronique, three questions

    How do you “sample” these respondents, maintain quotas, etc? This could be one of the main problems with the legitimacy of mobile sampling, no respondent criteria

    How many respondents were over 40? I would guess not many and that will be the case for a long time. In other words the people with high disposable incomes and many decision makers are never going to be in a mobile survey.

    Third how many minutes can you run a mobile survey? I would guess never more than 10 minutes?

  2. Hi Chris,

    Before our respondents can start using NPolls they have to select what applies to them for six categories: age, gender, income, country, occupation and type of device that they are using. So the legitimacy is there and is the same as for online polls. Market researchers can select beforehand which categories should answer the poll. Or they can leave it worldwide for anyone to answer and then later on (when the poll has closed) filter the data.

    With NPolls it takes us about 1 to 2 days to get around 1,000 answers from people who are over 40. It’s true that this is definitely the smallest group of respondents and that most people with smart devices are younger, but 1,000 respondents in 1 to 2 days is still highly efficient. Similarly, the group of people who earn 50,000 USD or more per year is also the smallest group in terms of income, but we can still get 1,000 answers from respondents from that income category within 1 or 2 days.

    Creating the survey usually takes between 30 minutes and an hour and filling it out usually doesn’t take longer than a few minutes. But if creators or respondents need more time, this is absolutely no problem. Once the survey has been launched, it will stay active and available to those who haven’t responded yet. It only closes when the sample size is filled. For a worldwide poll among 5,000 respondents this will likely happen within a day.

    If you have any additional questions or if you’d like to try it out, you can send an e-mail to


  3. Chris,
    I remember these same questions being asked when we first started to do online surveys back in the ’90s. How can you control who takes your surveys? Sampling is still the key to collecting valid data. The answer actually is simple and lies in part in the technology.

    When you call someone on a cell phone or send them a text message, how do you ensure that you are reaching the right person? You know because people have their own cell phones. It is extremely rare for people to respond to anyone else’s phone. So, you can do your sampling before reaching out to people.

    I think a more critical question is, how do you get people to participate in a survey on a cell phone? I think the answer there is to revisit how we write surveys. We have an application that presents each respondent with two or three questions at a time. We get over 90% compliance because it takes only seconds to complete. As a part of widely distributed app or inline in a checkout page, by asking only three questions at a time, but varying the question sets, we can get even more robust data than traditional surveys, and no one gets tired. Check out our demo at

  4. I think you all miss the point. I have no doubt that the person who responds is the phone owner. What I am asking is how you can set up a quota and know the repondents meet the quota. Yes it is very easy to get 1000’s of people responding to a surevy, but it is also easy for them to claim some profile that is fictitious, like being over 40 and being high incomed. How do you know who you are talking to is indeed a 35-39 year old female, other than they claim they are? The argument about the minimal data coverage is also not addressed. Who only wants to ask 3 questions? What would be the point of robust data on such a minimal data set?

  5. Chris, I believe that the problem of never being 100% sure of who is answering your survey exists in lots of other survey methods as well. If someone is answering a poll online, you also have no idea if they’re not lying about their age or gender. Similarly, if you send a questionnaire through traditional mail or if you call people on the phone, you’ll never be 100% sure that you’re talking to the right person.
    By using a mobile survey app, the respondents only have to fill out their personal information once and not for every single poll they answer. This makes them more inclined to answer to a poll.

    Through NPolls we usually ask between 8 and 15 questions, depending on the survey topic. And it only takes a few minutes for the respondents to fill it out. The time it takes depends on the types of questions that are being asked. If you want text answers, it obviously takes a bit longer than when people can click ‘agree’ or ‘don’t agree’, select one or several options from a list or rate a certain statement.

    • Chris Robinson says:

      Veronique, we obviously come from a different generation of marketing research. For me this is not an either/or, it just simply has to be correct. Online panels have gone a long way towards verifying respondents by identifying the IP of the respondent’s computer and by many other means to verify and be able to profile respondents. Even there I feel there is just too much leeway for incorrect profiling. With the old face to face methods there was no way that a respondent could be anyone other than who you were talking too. With mobile technology I just don’t see any way you could reliably conclude your sample was who they said they were. You would need to invest a lot of time building panels that had some form of verification before any of my clients would trust a mobile telephony survey solution. That is why Online has “panels’. Until you get those you are just selling a dubious service in my mind. And once you get into text answers I am sure the drop out rates will soar. The appeal of low cost will always attract some clients to this technology. However in my mind you are many years away from anything that could be validated. Basically we need to stop falling in love with technology that delivers speed and low cost when there are such hard questions about respondent identification and data quality unanswered – and clearly not wanting to be seriously addressed by this community!